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Gourmet Week showcases Swiss cuisine

The renowned chef Annagret Schlumpf swears by regional products. swissinfo.ch

Gourmet Week has been whetting the Swiss appetite for the third year running, with the German-speaking part of Switzerland participating for the first time.

This content was published on September 28, 2003 - 14:03

swissinfo caught up with the renowned Swiss chef, Annagret Schlumpf, who talked about the event, as well as Swiss cuisine and her love of regional food.

The aim of Gourmet Week - which was held from September 18-28 - is to raise awareness about Swiss gastronomy, especially among young people.

The quality of local produce and the preservation of traditional cooking are just two of the themes during this year’s Gourmet Week.

The 52-year-old Schlumpf, whose cuisine can be appreciated at “Stump’s Alpenrose”, a four-star hotel and restaurant in Wildhaus in eastern Switzerland, is also showing off her culinary skills at the event.

swissinfo: This year, for the first time, Gourmet Week is also taking place in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Do Swiss-Germans need help in the kitchen?

Annagret Schlumpf: I don’t think so. Swiss-Germans have a very good understanding of food and taste. I simply think they have not “sold” their skills enough.

swissinfo: The event is targeting Swiss young people in particular. They are often considered to be unsophisticated in their appreciation of food, and geared more toward McDonald’s than anything else. Do you agree?

A.S.: No, I don’t think so at all. In fact I think they have a very good sense of taste, but it’s just developed in a different direction. The use of natural ingredients as a basis for dishes has been lost to a certain extent. I think this needs to return, and young people are ready for this.

swissinfo: What types of dishes do you have on offer in the Alpenrose during Gourmet Week?

A.S.: Our menu includes a number of dishes with elderberries, and people really enjoy them. The Toggenburg region is not blessed with many fruits and vegetables, but elderberries bring colour and taste to our dishes from spring through to autumn.

swissinfo: Why is the Toggenburg region playing such a big role in Gourmet Week?

A.S.: The region is well known for its wonderful dairy products - not just skiing and wrestling. We have won many awards for our cheeses, and this seemed a good reason for taking part.

swissinfo: Is there really a Swiss cuisine?

A.S.: Yes, of course. Anyone who cooks in Switzerland knows there’s a Swiss cuisine, because they always use local ingredients. We are simply too shy to publicise it.

swissinfo: You are the first Swiss woman to graduate as a chef. You’ve also trained as a dietician, nutritionist, pastry cook and are the head chef at Stump’s Alpenrose. Was it an easy journey?

A.S.: Well, I never intended to work in the hotel and restaurant business. But while studying at university in St Gallen, I realised that I wasn’t the brainy type. So I switched to hotel management and attended the hotel training school in Lausanne.

I’ve also travelled to a number of countries to study languages, and for the past 21 years my husband and I have run our own business.

At 42, I began studying to be a chef, before training as a dietician and pastry cook. I am now also a qualified nutritionist.

swissinfo: In Switzerland you are one of the few women chefs in a profession dominated by men. Is that a difficult position to be in?

A.S.: No, I have no problem with that. At first this male-dominated world was a handicap for me. But I’m probably a bit stubborn and thought ‘if they can do it, so can I’. I also have many friends and colleagues that supported me.

swissinfo: What do enjoy cooking the most for your customers?

A.S.: Fresh vegetables, lovely salads and, of course, desserts. For me, making delicious desserts with local produce is the best.

swissinfo: And for yourself?

A.S.: Ribel. This is a type of corn that comes from the Swiss region of Rheintal. It was a poor man’s food that was brought over to Toggenburg. Years ago, Ribel was a staple food for many people. If you eat it with a bit of sugar, cinnamon and apple sauce – it’s the best!

swissinfo-Interview: Jean-Michel Berthoud (translation: Karin Kamp)

In brief

Gourmet Week – an event aimed at raising awareness about Swiss gastronomy – was launched three years ago.

This year the German-speaking part of Switzerland is taking part for the first time.

The use of local produce and the preservation of gastronomic traditions are two of the themes of this year’s event.

Visitors will get to taste dishes prepared by top Swiss chefs, including Annagret Schlumpf.

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